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Warren Jeffs, the former leader of the polygamist sect Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, was convicted in 2011 for the sexual assault of underage girls.
Warren Jeffs - Money (2:06)
Warren Jeffs was born in 1955, the 14th son of a high-ranking official of the FLDS. Born premature, his family thought he was destined for greatness.
The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a religious community that exists on the fringe of the rest of society. The leaders of the church control the community-- as well as the money and property its members.
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Warren Jeffs was born on December 3, 1955, in Sacramento, California. He is the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), a polygamist sect based in Utah and Arizona. Jeffs first gained notoriety in 2006, when the FBI placed him on its Ten Most Wanted List for arranging marriages between his followers and under-age girls. In 2006, he was arrested, and in 2007, he was convicted,
but the sentence was later overturned. A 2008 raid on the FLDS compound in Texas resulted in evidence of the assault of underage girls, which later led to Jeffs' conviction in 2011.
One of the 21st century's most infamous religious leaders, Warren Jeffs grew up within the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) community. This religious sect is an offshoot from Mormonism, but it is not recognized by or affiliated with the mainstream Mormon church. The FLDS carries on one tradition that the Mormons abandoned in the 1890s: polygamy, or plural marriage.
The practice of polygamy goes back for generations in Jeffs' family. His father, Rulon, had at least 50 wives and dozens of children during his lifetime. Warren was his 14th child. He was born more than two months prematurely, and his survival led him to be seen as a golden child. From the beginning, he had a special relationship with his father. He grew up outside Salt Lake City, UT, and for more than 20 years, Warren Jeffs served as the principal of Alta Academy, an FLDS private school in the area. He was known for being a stickler for the rules and for discipline. Outside of his job responsibilities, Jeffs was also active in the church. When his father, Rulon, became the new FLDS prophet in 1986, he changed the structure of the FLDS church, eliminating its council and placing himself as its only leader. In the late 1990s, Rulon's health started to decline, and Warren positioned himself as his successor. He even took over as his father's spokesperson after Rulon suffered a serious stroke.
In 2002, Jeffs took the reins of the FLDS after the death of his father. He became the group's new prophet, which gave him control over its property holdings as well as its followers. Early on in his tenure, Jeffs decided to marry some of his father's wives. He also sought out a place for a new FLDS community in West Texas. There, Jeffs established the Yearning for Zion, or YFZ, Ranch. He showed himself to be ruthless and controlling, excommunicating 21 men in 2004 for disobedience. Even for the faithful, Jeffs ruled over nearly every aspect of their lives, from the clothes they wore to whom they could marry to what toys children could play with. He insisted on no television and no Internet.
Jeffs soon found himself in legal hot water, however. The male followers he excommunicated in 2004 filed a civil suit against him later that year, and his nephew Brent Jeffs also brought him to court. Brent Jeffs claimed that his uncle had sexually assaulted him as a child.
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